314 B. POLEVOI uniform: tunic, sword-belt, Order of the Red Star, and even the Guards' badge—and it all suited her so well! She looked like a lean, good-looking boy in an officer's uniform. Only this boy had a tired face, and his large, round, lustrous eyes had an unyouthful, penetrating look. Alexei gazed at those eyes long and hard. His heart was filled with that unaccountable sweet sadness that one feels on hearing in the evening the distant strains of a favourite song. In his pocket he found the old photo- graph of Olya, taken in a print frock in the meadow among the white, starry daisies. Strange to say, the girl in the tunic with the tired eyes that he had never seen, was dearer to him than the one he had known. On the back of the new photograph was the inscription: "Al- ways remember." The letter was brief, but cheerful. The girl was now in command of a platoon of sappers, only this platoon was not engaged in war but in peaceful work; it was helping to rebuild Stalingrad. She wrote little about herself, but went into raptures about the great city, about its reviv- ing ruins, about the women, girls and youths who had come here from all parts of the country to rebuild the city, living in cellars, gun emplacements, blindages and bunkers left after the fighting, and in railway cars, ply- wood shacks and dugouts. People were saying, she wrote, that everybody who worked well would receive an apart- ment in the rebuilt city. If that were true, then Alexei could be sure of having a place after the war. The twilight was short, as it usually is in the summer. Alexei read the last lines of the letter by the light of his torch. When he had read it he threw a beam of light on the photograph. The soldier gazed at him with stern, honest eyes. "Darling, you are having a hard time----- The war has not spared you, but it has not broken you! Are you waiting? Wait. I will come. You love me. Love me for ever, dear." And suddenly Alexei felt ashamed that for eighteen months he had kept from her, a Stalin- grad fighter, the misfortune that had befallen him. He felt an urge to go down into his dugout at once and frankly write her about everything—let her decide, and the sooner the better. It would be easier for both of them when everything was settled.